One of the sweetest tone planks I ever owned was a Washburn Falcon. It was great to look at, had a wonderful tone and was a real pleasure to play. But it was heavy, real heavy. So much so that taking it on the road was pretty much out of the question. According to Florida's Michael Kelly Guitars, instruments that drag players down are a common problem and one that the company seeks to solve with a new range of lightweight electric guitars called the Enlightened Series.
Michael Kelly Guitars says that it has been listening to what customers are looking for in a new guitar, and has determined that high on the wants list are instruments that don't hang so heavy around the neck. After two years of research and development, the company is readying a bunch of ultra lightweight guitars for release and has opted for an early launch on Kickstarter to help connect directly with its potential customer base, as well as raise production funds.
"We heard from many players who, because of various health reasons, truly needed a lighter guitar option," said the company's founder Tracy Hoeft. "Some were ready to give up playing altogether. Our players' community has been a guiding force in the development of many of our recent collections. Introducing these innovations via the community-oriented platform, Kickstarter, was a natural fit."
The models in the Enlightened Series guitars are being made to a target weight of just 6 lb (2.7 kg), which the firm says is 30 percent lighter than traditional electrics. To this end, the Michael Kelly team has elected to make use of the less weighty Red Cedar flavor of the mahogany family, a choice that's said to retain the kind of tone found in solid body guitars made using heavier tone woods.
The makers have also shaved some of the girth from the body, and tunneled four ports through from the bridge end to lighten the area behind the bridge – an area determined not to be vital for tonal characteristics. The attractive faces of the guitars come courtesy of maple tops (specifically, the Telecaster-shaped Classic 50 and Limited Edition models get handsome flame maple, while the Evolved Tele and Les Paul-like Patriot models sport quilt maple). And some models gain aluminum hardware instead of steel, further tipping the balance in favor of shoulder-friendly comfort.
Michael Kelly stresses that such weight-saving measures do not adversely affect the tone of the Enlightened range and, as for balance around the neck, strategic repositioning of strap locks help mitigate the neck-heavy nature of the new guitars. Elsewhere, all of the guitars have 22-fret maple necks with rosewood fingerboards and custom-tuned pickups.
The "light-done-right" Enlightened series is expected to start at a suggested retail price of US$850 for the mid-year launch proper, but Kickstarter backers are being tempted to the featherweight party early, with pledges starting at just $449. Michael Kelly is even offering a special $895 pledge level that gives 10 backers the chance to work with the firm's team to create their very own custom Enlightened guitar. If all goes to plan, shipping is expected to kick off in June.
You can see the Enlightened pitch video below.